Koko and kitten

Koko with Smoke the kitten. Photo from The Gorilla Foundation/Koko.org

It hit me hard to learn that Koko, the western lowland gorilla who learned American Sign Language, has died. From the moment I first read about her back in the 1970s, I felt optimistic that she would usher in a new era of human compassion and respect for non-humans. She gave us a window into the mind of a gorilla and reinforced what so many of us knew: that animals of course have emotions.

Sadly, there is still a great deal of animal suffering at the hands of people and much work to be done. But Koko’s legacy is a powerful one. Her gentleness, her love for her kitten, her utter lack of guile will long be remembered.

Read more about Koko here.